She Knew Who She Was Religiously and Culturally
The Syrophoenician woman was not clueless. She knew that when she came as she was, this Jewish rabbi would likely not even acknowledge her presence. Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) did not mix. It was socially and religiously forbidden, grounded in ancient custom and law. Wholesale rejection was the most likely course.
Perhaps she had heard of the compassion of this rabbi. Perhaps she was grasping with abandon at even the most remote straw. Perhaps the rejection would have simply echoed or validated what she was feeling from God as she watched her child suffer. She came knowing that it would take more than one miracle for her precious little one to be healed. First, she had to be heard.
Yet she came anyway. As herself. If that Just who do you think you are? accusation had been raised within her, she would have simply and confidently answered it. She did not try to create a more acceptable identity or obtain a proxy, perhaps a Jewish friend who might plead her case. There was no pretense, only a willingness to be fully and honestly present. This was indeed a choice of great faith.
She Knew a Deeper Truth
This story really opens up when we consider the context. Just before this encounter, Jesus had a moment of frustration with his disciples. The question at hand was "What makes a person acceptable (clean)?" Surprisingly, Jesus' teaching was that it had nothing to do with the external. In verses 1–14, just before our story, the Pharisees had initiated the conversation with talk of ceremonial washing before meals. Jesus expanded the conversation with an Isaiah reference: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Mark 7:6). He also mentioned issues way too close to home for them, such as how poorly they were treating their parents. He concluded with remarks about evil being inside out, not outside in.
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them."
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: "What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person's heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person" (Mark 7:14–23).
I don't believe this story was placed just after this teaching by accident. This deeper understanding of clean and unclean was the very truth this unnamed woman from Syrian Phoenicia not only knew intuitively, but was also banking on big time.